During her confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos faced questions from Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA):
Kaine: Should all K-12 school receiving governmental funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?Politico follows up:
DeVos: I think they already are.
Kaine: I’m asking you a “should” question. Whether they are or not, we’ll get into that later. Should all schools that receive taxpayer funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?
DeVos: I think that’s a matter that’s best left to the states.
Kaine: So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good, and then what? People can just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?
DeVos: I think that’s an issue best left to the states.
Kaine: What about the federal requirement. It’s a federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Let’s limit it to federal funding. If schools receive federal funding should they be required to follow a federal law whether they are public, public charter or private?
DeVos: As the Senator referred to –
Kaine: Just yes or no, I’ve only got one more question
DeVos: There’s a Florida program. There are many parents that are very happy with the program there.
Kaine: Let me state this: I think all schools that receive federal funding, public, public charter or private should be required to meet the conditions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Do you agree with me or not?
DeVos: I think that is certainly worth discussion and I would look forward to.
Kaine: So you cannot agree with me.
The exchange prompted gasps from some watching the confirmation. Sen. Maggie Hassan then followed up, noting that IDEA is federal law and “federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.”
“Were you unaware that it is federal law?” Hassan asked.
“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.
“I'm concerned that you seem so unfamiliar with it,” Hassan said, adding that some private school voucher programs supported by DeVos aren’t honoring students’ rights under IDEA.
DeVos said that if confirmed, she’ll be sensitive to the needs of students under the law.
“It is not about sensitivity,” Hassan said. “It is ensuring that every child has equal access to a high-quality education. The reality is the vouchers that you support do not always come out that way. That is why it is something we need to continue to explore.”